Plastic Houses in EthiopiaA new company called Kubik has developed a smart and ecological way to help build affordable plastic houses in Ethiopia and Africa more broadly. Kubik uses recycled plastic waste to create more sustainable and inexpensive building materials that can be used to create homes, schools, factories and more. Kubik recently received a combined investment of $3.34 million to expand their plastic houses business into Ethiopia, where there exists an enormous housing crisis. Hence, Kubik has the potential to go a long way in helping alleviate the housing crisis in Ethiopia and beyond while at the same time helping to create a more sustainable and ecological way of living. 

The Housing Crisis in Ethiopia

Ethiopia, like much of Africa, is facing rapid urbanization, which means that populations in large cities like Addis Abbas are growing at high rates. At the same time, as more and more people move into cities, there is an increasing demand for housing in these cities because people need to find a place to live. 

However, in Ethiopia, the rate at which people are moving into large cities per year far exceeds the rate at which new affordable houses are being built. More specifically, the housing demand is currently estimated to be more than 1 million in Ethiopia with current rates projecting an estimated net of 200,000 more houses needed each year to account for the growing population. Because of this, there is an ongoing housing crisis in which many people are forced to live in small government-owned houses made of mud and wood that leave people susceptible to dangerous diseases and other health problems or in some cases, force people into homelessness. 

Kubik’s Solution

Started by Kidus Asfaw and Penda Marre after seeing how school classrooms were made from plastic materials in Côte d’Ivoire, Kubik was initially founded with the intention of helping create more classrooms in Côte d’Ivoire. However, after seeing the potential that plastic had to be used as a building material, Afshaw and Marre soon shifted the focus of Kubik to providing cheap building materials that could be used to build affordable plastic houses and other important infrastructure such as public bathrooms, schools and eco-friendly factories. 

More specifically, Kubik accomplishes this goal by selling the plastic building materials it makes to real estate developers who use its plastic building materials to build houses at a less expensive cost. In fact, plastic building bricks are often around 40% cheaper than cement of which most ordinary housing bricks are made. 

Ecological Benefit

Although the primary benefit of Kubik’s plastic building materials is its ability to provide more affordable houses in places that urgently need them, they also offer a number of ecological benefits that contribute to protecting the planet as well as improving people’s overall health. First, Kubik’s plastic building materials emit approximately 500% less carbon dioxide than traditional building materials such as cement. Hence, houses made from Kubik’s plastic materials will help significantly in the effort to halt global warming. 

Additionally, Kubik is helping contribute to solving a significant plastic waste problem that is present in many African countries including Ethiopia which produces almost 400,000 tons of plastic waste annually. However, 96% of existing plastic waste does not get recycled. Not only can large amounts of plastic waste significantly disrupt ecosystems and harm marine animals, but because plastic takes so long to decay, plastic waste is often burned to release incredibly harmful chemicals into the air that can cause numerous associated health risks including respiratory problems. 

Kubik helps to reduce the amount of plastic waste and the problems associated with it by focusing on solely using plastics that would not otherwise be made into recyclable products in the production of their building materials. 


Ethiopia faces an ongoing affordable housing crisis as well as a crisis in the rapidly increasing build-up of plastic waste that can damage the environment and people’s health. Although Kubik cannot completely solve either of these two issues alone, the efforts go a long way in mitigating the effects of both by providing an innovative and creative way to turn unused plastic waste into materials used to make affordable plastic houses in Ethiopia. Furthermore, Kubik may serve as an inspiration to future entrepreneurs to develop creative methods that will help solve societal problems such as affordable housing and excessive plastic waste. 

– Athan Yanos
Photo: Unsplash

Affordable Housing in Ethiopia
Housing poverty in Ethiopia exposes many citizens to unsafe and unsanitary living conditions. Habitat for Humanity reports that 43% of homes in the nation have pit latrines in the absence of a toilet, thus making sanitation hardly accessible. Currently, many homes are mainly built using wood and mud, often leading to inadequate coverage from natural disasters and unexpected events. Kubik, an Ethiopian startup, seeks to change these conditions by revolutionizing affordable housing in Ethiopia.

Kubik’s Mission

The startup owes its origins to the humanitarian vision of its founders, Kidus Asfaw, CEO, and Penda Marre, Chief Production Officer. Asfaw and Marre, who are “children of Africa,” according to Kubik’s website, use their own experiences to overturn the housing crisis that affects countless Ethiopians. With 35 million Ethiopians or 44% of the population living in extreme poverty, Kubik’s promise to provide access to affordable housing can alleviate the extent to which poverty impacts daily activities.

While Kubik’s overarching goal is to implement affordable housing in Ethiopia, it also remains committed to ensuring that its process is dignified, clean and sustainable. In doing so, it seeks to construct durable, long-lasting homes for Ethiopians while pioneering innovative practices and methods that help the country and the environment.

Kubik’s Revolutionary Process

Mainly, Kubik operates with a process that reinvents the ways that builders typically construct homes. Moving away from wood and mud materials, this company focuses on using low-carbon products. The mission-focused startup transforms plastic waste into low-carbon products that are suitable for construction and resistant to damage due to unpredictable natural disasters, for example. By turning waste into a useful tool, Kubik helps lower the emission of harmful gasses into the environment.

Using recycled waste is also significantly cheaper than using traditional construction materials. As a result, the final price of a home can be set at a reasonable figure, ultimately helping those who seek better conditions but cannot afford to purchase accommodating costs. The appeal of strong, environmentally-friendly materials coupled with the cost-effective prices attracts the attention of larger corporations that further Kubik’s success.

Kubik Gains Attention and Support

As Kubik entered the field with its revolutionary idea, companies and entrepreneurs immediately recognized the need to invest in this talent. The Global Startup Awards (GSA), which awards entrepreneurial efforts and promotes financial success via connection to stakeholders and investors, named Kubik as the 2023 Startup of the Year. This honor helped increase national and international acclaim for the company, which further expanded Kubik’s growth.

Kubik also earned a title as a prime ClimateTech Startup from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), an honor that furnished the company partnerships with large firms and investors. Romain Diaz, a founder of VC Satgana, a fellow ClimateTech Startup, expressed a commitment to join forces with Kubik and streamline the execution of its housing venture. Within the past year, Kubik has successfully raised more than $3.34 million.

Kubik’s Saving Grace

As Kubik provides affordable housing in Ethiopia, it also has a second goal of creating effective social change. The founders, along with staff members, will take control of the waste sector in Ethiopia to alleviate the unfair and unsafe conditions that women experience in this field. Traditionally, women sort through piles of plastic, without regulation, and earn little to no profit for their work. However, with Kubik’s help, female waste collectors can work in safe conditions and live in a specially-made home constructed by the company. This necessary change in the waste management sector will allow women to earn a steady income and receive financial autonomy.

Looking Ahead

As Kubik continues to expand affordable housing in Ethiopia and provide jobs to women waste collectors, the company will expand from its headquarters to other nations outside of its borders. With financial support from large companies and established investors, Kubik can implement significant change in developing nations. In time, there is hope that the Ethiopian-based startup, with its future-forward mission, will empower individuals and limit the extent of housing poverty with its cost-effective solutions.

– Maddy Grieco
Photo: Flickr